Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund

What is the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund?

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) is part of government's Industrial Strategy, a long-term plan to boost the UK's productivity and earning power of people throughout the UK through promoting innovation across key industries. 

The fund is the cornerstone of the government’s commitment to increase funding in research and development by £4.7 billion over 4 years, to strengthen UK science and business.

It aims to promote challenge-led research, focused on important industrial and societal themes, through investment in Universities and industry.

Sector Deals

One facet of the Industrial Strategy is a series of Sector Deals; partnerships between the government and industry on sector-specific issues. Upcoming ISCF funding is likely to be aligned to these deals. To find out more about each individual deal, please follow the links below:

Life Sciences Sector Deal Automotive Sector Deal Creative Industries Sector Deal Artificial Intelligence Sector Deal Construction Sector Deal Nuclear Sector Deal  Aerospace Sector Deal Rail Sector Deal Offshore Wind Deal

Challenge Directors

Driving forward the various challenges which comprise the ISCF are the challenge directors, each of whom has a wealth of experience within their respective fields. 

Dr Andy Jones - Medicines manufacturing
Prof Andrew Chitty - Audiences of the future
Mr Sam Stacey - Transforming construction
Mr Roger McKinlay - Quantum Technologies
Mr George MacGinnis - Healthy ageing
Prof Mercedes Maroto-Valer - Industrial Decarbonisation Research & Innovation Centre
Prof Judith Phillips - Social Behavioural & Design Research Programme

We expect that additional challenge directors will be appointed in the near future.

Open and upcoming calls 

Anticipated ISCF Wave 3 Challenges

Press release on cyber threats to businesses and personal data challenge

Case Studies

Smart Enabling Robotics driving free FOrm Welding "SERFOW"

Sheff PI: Dr Richard French (Physics)
Award: Collaborative R&D

Additive manufacturing (AM) can refer to the process of joining materials to make objects from digital 3D model or design data, which is used to build-up a component - usually layer-upon-layer - and includes a range of techniques such as additive or freeform fabrication. Innovative technology is required in order for AM to become a highly disruptive force within the global manufacturing industry enabling a shift from prototyping to mass production of parts and accessories. This project seeks to advance the technology used in AM by integrating robot manipulators with 3D vision systems to locate and pick up specific objects and hold them in place while a separate arm provides a fusion welding arc to join the components together by completing the weld. This proof-of-concept project intends to develop an innovative, free-form fusion welding demonstrator that is capable of new product fabrication or assembly using digital information supplied from a range of sources such as computer-aided-design or real-time data supplied by advanced digital inspection. The production technologies will locate and grasp the required parts, hold them in place enabling them to be welded together through a layered welding approach.
Led by I3d Robotics Ltd

Announcement  Video

Innovating Next Generation Services through Collaborative Design

Sheff PI: Tim Vorley (Management School)
Award: ESRC/ ISCF Next Generation Services Research

Professional service firms are facing increasing challenges from A.I .and machine learning technologies. Whilst these technological innovations are important for growth and productivity, how they are integrated into business practices and businesses is of critical concern. This project focuses on the role that collaborative exploration about future uncertainties can play in the design and implementation of new A.I. technologies in accounting and legal services. The project focuses on the ways in which businesses can think about changing the way they work through a collaborative design model that considers current and future pathways for A.I. technologies and the broader, dynamic institutional landscape. The project addresses the UK Industrial Strategy's Grand Challenge which calls for a consideration of how AI technologies can boost UK national productivity and growth. The project will focus specifically on synthesising insights from business model innovation, operations management, studies of professional service firms, developments in AI, and service design to understand how innovation in PSFs is adopted and assimilated. The project team will connect these multidisciplinary academic insights with the on-the-ground understandings and perspectives of innovators in professional services firms.

More info 


As most projects will be working with non-academic organisations, please consider the types of agreements and contracts that need to be in place at the different stages of the application process. A brief description of each can be found in these web pages but please contact Research Services if you have any queries about what needs to be in place and when. Initiating discussions early on could save time once the award is made.

Research contracts support 

Innovate UK's KTN have produced the following guide for business-led application writing, along with an 'Innovation Canvas' for helping with project development

Good Application Guide Innovation Canvas

The blog linked to below is a good resource for those looking to engage with industrial partners:

What industry looks for in an academic partners

The Faculty of Social Science has also produced the following brochure to help explain ISCF:

Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund: Sheffield Solutions

On 5th July 2019, the University hosted a half-day event on 'Introducing the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund', featuring talks from representatives from Innovate, case studies from industrial partners participating in the fund and the University approach to the ISCF. The presentation slides from this event are available below:

Introducing the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund event presentation slides

On the 20th February 2020, Andy Curtis, Karen Wilkinson from the InnovateUK KTN team and Matthew Ham (Research Hub Manager for COM/ACSE) presented a workshop at the University of Sheffield on how to write a compelling ISCF application, the slides for which can be found below:

ISCF Bid Writing Workshop Slides